Indian video-sharing apps surge in popularity on TikTok ban

Roposo, an Indian video-sharing social media app similar to TikTok that been around since 2014, saw its user base jump by 22 million in the two days. (AFP)
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Updated 03 July 2020

Indian video-sharing apps surge in popularity on TikTok ban

  • Ban follows a confrontation between India and China at a disputed Himalayan border site
  • With 200 million Indians users, TikTok a burgeoning force in the nation’s social media scene

NEW DELHI: Indian tech and entertainment firms are looking to capitalize on sudden opportunities arising from a government ban on Chinese owned apps, including the wildly popular TikTok, with one rival video app saying it had added 22 million users in 48 hours. India this week outlawed 59 Chinese-owned apps including TikTok and Tencent’s WeChat, in what was described as a “digital strike” against China by the country’s technology minister.
The move followed a confrontation between India and China at a disputed Himalayan border site, which left 20 Indian soldiers dead.
With 200 million Indians users, TikTok, which features a simple user interface, background music options and various special effects, was a burgeoning force in the nation’s social media scene and the ban left its fans scrambling for options.
Roposo, an Indian video-sharing social media app similar to TikTok that been around since 2014, saw its user base jump by 22 million in the two days after India banned the Chinese apps, the company’s founder Mayank Bhangadia told Reuters.
“In the last few days I’ve slept for a total of five hours, and it’s the same for our entire team,” Bhangadia said. “The load is so much and we’re just ensuring that the experience is as smooth as possible.”
Roposo’s downloads on Google’s Android now total over 80 million, and Bhangadia expects that to reach 100 million in just a few days. Before the ban, Roposo had roughly 50 million installs on Android devices, which account for a bulk of India’s nearly 500 million smartphones.
Based in the southern Indian tech hub of Bengaluru, the company has just 200 staff now but is planning to hire as many as 10,000 people over the next two years and may take the app global, Bhangadia said.
Other home-grown TikTok alternatives such as Chingari and Mitron are also finding favor with users, with many taking to social media to echo Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for “atma-nirbhar” or self-reliant India.
MyGov, the federal government’s citizen engagement website, last month created its account on Roposo.
“We have to create our own ecosystem, every country has done this, this is our atma-nirbhar program,” said a government minister.
New players are also jumping into the fray. Mumbai-based Zee Entertainment Enterprises is set to launch an ad-supported, short-video platform, named HiPi, in the next two months, Rajneel Kumar, the product head for its digital unit Zee5 said.
He hoped that former TikTok users would “find a home within Hipi to be able to continue to enjoy the content they enjoyed.”


Malaysian police chief insists Al Jazeera probe ‘professional’

Updated 05 August 2020

Malaysian police chief insists Al Jazeera probe ‘professional’

  • The government said the documentary tarnished the image of the country
  • Abdul Hamid said the investigation “will be very transparent”

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s police chief insisted Wednesday investigations into an Al Jazeera documentary are being conducted “professionally” and rejected concerns about worsening media freedom, a day after the broadcaster’s office was searched.
Authorities are investigating the news network’s program “Locked up in Malaysia’s Lockdown,” after the government was angered by its critical look at the treatment of migrant workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Officials on Tuesday searched the Qatar-based broadcaster’s Kuala Lumpur office and seized two computers, sparking fresh anger from Al Jazeera and rights groups and adding to concerns about media independence in Malaysia.
But the country’s Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador said the search by police and communications ministry officials was carried out “very professionally.”
“It was not a military kind of action taken by the police,” he told AFP in an interview.
He added that Al Jazeera staff were “informed earlier of our intent to be there. They were even asked which devices were used. They cooperated.”
The search came after seven Al Jazeera journalists were questioned by police last month in connection with the documentary.
Abdul Hamid said the probe would be wrapped up soon, after which the attorney-general will decide whether to bring charges.
But the government insists the documentary — which focused on alleged mistreatment of migrants when they were rounded up during a coronavirus lockdown in May — tarnished the country’s image.
Authorities say the round-up was necessary to protect the public from the virus.
Al Jazeera is being probed for alleged sedition, defamation and transmitting offensive content, but it has stood by the documentary and insists the reporting was impartial.
Abdul Hamid said the investigation “will be very transparent” and insisted journalists in Malaysia were still free to do their jobs.
But he also urged international media to “be responsible,” calling them not to “write something... that is inaccurate.”